Comcast Continues To Bleed Olympics Viewers After Years Of Bumbling

from the you're-not-doing-a-good-job dept

NBC (now Comcast NBC Universal) has enjoyed the rights to broadcast the US Olympics since 1998. In 2011, the company paid $4.4 billion for exclusive US broadcast rights to air the Olympics through 2020. In 2014, Comcast NBC Universal shelled out another $7.75 billion for the rights to broadcast the summer and winter Olympics in the US… until the year 2032.

Despite years of experience Comcast/NBC still struggles to provide users what they actually want. For years the cable, broadband, and broadcast giant has been criticized for refusing to air events live, spoiling some events, implementing annoying cable paywall restrictions, implementing heavy handed and generally terrible advertising, often sensationalizing coverage, avoiding controversial subjects during broadcasts, and streaming efforts that range from clumsy to scattershot.

Not too surprisingly, years of this continues to have a profound drag on viewer numbers, which are worse than ever:

“Through Tuesday, an average of 12.2 million people watched the Olympics in prime-time on NBC, cable or the Peacock streaming service, down 42 percent from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The average for NBC alone was 10 million, a 47 percent drop, the Nielsen company said.”

And this was with Comcast/NBC’s attempt to goose ratings by jumping right to Olympics coverage before the Super Bowl postgame celebrations had barely started. This year’s ratings were also impacted by doping scandals, COVID, an Olympics location that barely had any snow, and disgust at the host country’s human rights abuses:

“One woman on Twitter proclaimed the Olympics were ?over for me. My lasting impression will be fake snow against a backdrop of 87 nuclear reactors in a country with a despicable human rights record during a pandemic. And kids who can look forward to years of therapy.?

While the Olympic veneer might not be what it used to be, you still have to think Comcast could boost viewership by exploiting the internet to broaden and improve coverage and provide more real-time live coverage of all events, while bundling it in a more coherent overall presentation. After all, they’ve only had two decades to perfect the formula.

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Companies: comcast, nbc

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Comments on “Comcast Continues To Bleed Olympics Viewers After Years Of Bumbling”

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sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…. greedy bastards

It does make one wonder where all that money is ending up, doesn’t it?

I mean, host countries spend their own money building villages, arenas, infrastructure, taking care of security, etc., none of that comes out of the billions paid to the Committee by advertisers and televisors. Participating countries spend their own money to train, clothe, feed, and transport their athletes to the event locations, so the Committee isn’t spending money in this fashion either.

Advertising? Possibly, but certainly not billions’ worth. And insofar as I can determine, they couldn’t possibly spend enough on advertising to sway those who don’t give a damn about the Olympics in the first place, and it’s wasted on those who are already fanatical about the whole schmear.

I’d like some transparency here, please – just who pocketed nearly all that incoming money? ‘Cause sure as shit those lame-ass medallions aren’t made of real gold, etc.

Glenn says:

The Olympics used to be about sport. Covering the Olympics was about news. Now, it’s just another "reality" TV show, and a poor one at that. The Olympics now is large part business, even larger part politics, while sport is hardly there at all–and only on the surface. NBC needs to air it where it deserves to be seen: only by the idiots who’d choose to pay to watch it. Of course, the idiot advertisers will pay for just about any airtime they can get.

Phillip (profile) says:

Re: Re:

this was likely in response to things like the ski jump which were with fake snow directly in front of some stacks that LOOKED like nuclear reactor towers. They were actually industrial cooling towers from a shuttered factory, but the gist is the same the Winter Olympics were largely held in a location with no snow or winter but all manufactured snow next to industrial areas.

Anonymous Coward says:

I guess I’m in the minority but I enjoyed watching the Olympics, though the USA network’s coverage was usually more interesting to me than what was on NBC. I’m usually up pretty late and it was fun watching the sports live at night. There were some amazing emerging athletes, like Eileen Gu and Ayumu Hirano. Johnny Weir proved to be one of the best sports commentators ever this year. The incident with Remi Lindholm and his frozen penis was pretty hilarious too. I think one reason ratings may have been down is that there weren’t many Americans that were expected to dominate this time around, plus the NHL players didn’t play on the hockey teams.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Id blame the severe drop off in cable subscriptions, and the poor showing of past streaming, with blackouts to funnel finals into US primetime undermining the whole live sports aspects. particularly with peacock’s underdeveloped offering further undermining streaming viability last year. Add on top the olympics weren’t advertised outside of NBC offerings, reducing visibility for cord cutters.

Even if we’d had celebrity athletes, there are distinct failings in the offering in previous years and now that drive viewership away.

Slow Joe Crow (profile) says:

I actually subscribe to NBC’s streaming service and I made a deliberate decision not to watch any Winter Olympics coverage, to help tank viewer numbers.

Before that I was disappointed with NBC’s Summer Olympics coverage, because despite the supposed flexibility and variety of streaming, the sports I was interested in had only a handful of episodes buried under a pile of fluff over gymnastics,track and basketball. I think I got more sprint kayak coverage in 1992 with my VCR

Another Kevin (profile) says:


NBC: Nothing But Commercials

One thing that people who don’t understand the broadcasting business get wrong is that a network wants to miss its rating targets by a small margin in a major event. You can always compensate advertisers for slightly low ratings by giving them time in other sporting events. If you go wildly over on ratings, you can’t charge more than your negotiated rate. You make the best profit by overpromising slightly.

Eldakka (profile) says:

I haven’t really ‘gotten’ the Olympics since the early 90’s.

100 years ago it made perfect sense. The world was huge then, not many people travelled inter-continentally, that was mostly the domain of the rich – as long as they had 4 months to spare for the travel. So having this world-wide event every 4 years allowed athletes to compete with people from countries they’d never heard of let alone would have ever been able to visit.

But today? Nearly every sport has their own yearly ‘world championships’. The every 4-year World Cups that various sports have (e.g. football aka soccer, Rugby, etc.) are far, far more important than the Olympics. Individual events in some sports shit all over the Olympics – Tour de France, any of the 4 tennis grand slams, etc. You can be in any major city in the world within 48 hours, many within 20. The Olympics revels in it’s own memories of past glory and importance. These days, it’s nothing more than a corrupt scam earning the IOC billions of unearned income.

There is just no point to the Olympics anymore. There hasn’t been for at least 30 years now.

Anonymous Coward says:

With a background of a country that has an awful record of repression and lack of respect for human rights plus using fake snow I would expect lower ratings The Olympics is so expensive only a few country’s can afford to stage it which includes fascist repressive regimes so of course its a political event . There are so many events going on its not easy to provide live coverage that will accur at prime time in America

WimBonner (profile) says:

NBC Over the air and TiVo

I gave up on cable many years ago. I’ve had a TiVo of one version or another since they first came out, my current one with 4 tuners connected to an antenna. I prefer the winter olympics to the summer olympics, and prefer the speed events to the judged events. I find it frustrating when part of an event is shown on NBC, and then they say to continue watching tune in to USA.

The proliferation of streaming services is as bad as cable, and I don’t have any answer beyond stopping caring at all.

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